It’s that time of year when the Civic Hall, Radcliffe gets its roof well and truly raised as the hordes of rockers and metal-heads gather for the annual SOS festival. Organized by Rocksector Records it showcases not only their own bands but also some of the finest bands from the UK and beyond performing both live and acoustic sets.
It’s always a great mix of music and this year is no exception with hard and heavy groove metal from Obzidian and NWOBHM from Tysondog to high energy rock and roll from The Amorettes and some great acoustic folk/rock from Steel Threads.
One thing about the festival is the overall feel; no barriers or separate bars and the crowd and bands all mingle, mosh, and generally cause mayhem together which makes for a nice big metal family feel.
The festival layout works very well with one main stage and one acoustic stage that share the same room which means there are no overlaps between the bands, also it always amazes me the quality of the sound and lighting for the size of festival! It really shows how good it can be when the thought and effort are put in and overall it really enhances the festival for the bands and the punters. Well done all!
Over the weekend there was a fundraiser going on by a young lad Sammy who was raising money and having his ponytail cut off for a charity so they can make wigs for children going through chemo treatment, a truly worthwhile cause which saw Sammy lose 12” from his hair but raised over £1000 for the charity and over half of that came from the festival punters over the weekend.
Now in its eighth year the Festival has been extended to include a Friday night session for all the early revellers and judging by the numbers that have turned up it has been a great addition. One thing about the festival is the overall feel; no barriers or separate bars and the crowd and bands all mingle, mosh, and generally cause mayhem together which makes for a nice big metal family feel.
Kicking the whole event off are a band I had seen recently in one of the M2TM competitions, Kill Or Cure who bang out an awesome power metal set. One thing that really stands about them is Chris’ powerful vocals that really make the sound their own.
Dan and Elena combine to give the music its thick hard yet melodic sound, ‘Seasons End’ shows this off well. They also do agreat job of covering ‘Infernal’s Paris To Berlin’ and give it their own power metal twist and it works well.
Next up Vice, a bunch of young guys from Bury that are making a big noise with their music. Most of their set came from the EP ‘Of Vice and Virtue’ but also included a few new tracks like ‘Sloth’ that sees some great twin guitar work from Tom and Jack and some great double time bass drums.
Following on with another M2TM bands Amethyst who won the Manchester final for a slot at this year’s Bloodstock and are one of 2 groove metal bands on the bill today. Flying ‘V’s and massively strung basses lead the way through an awesome set.
One thing that happens at SOS is that you never know what you’re going to get next and now on the bill was one of the heaviest bands of the weekend Obzidian, hold on to your ears as these guys are just brutal, not the normal style for a Rocksector signing but they definitely match the quality of the rest of the stable.
Their third album ‘Concrete Psychosis’ is a hard heavy mix of thrash and double time drums with the occasional sub-bass that rattles your teeth. With a sound akin to Pantera and FFDP Matty (vocals) parades round the stage delivering his vocals from the dark depths of sludginess to the ear shattering rasps and is every part the frontman and fully engages the audience. A set which ends with ‘Vile’ which is probably one of their slowest numbers but still managed to entice the crowd to head bang till the end.
As the first day rolls on to its end we get Collibus who despite having some technical, issues managed to pull out a really good set with some particularly impressive vocals from Gemma Fox.
Topping the night off was another Rocksector band, Triaxis, a hard hitting metal band from South Wales, I’ve seen them a few times now and like their sound but I only managed to catch the end of the set and got to hear them play a great tribute to Ronnie James Dio, with ‘Holy Diver’.
Up and at them as they say, easier said than done with night of beer to work off but this morning we had some Twisted Illusion to blow away the cobwebs with a bit of heavy Prog. Vocalist and guitarist Matt was putting in 110% effort to get the crowd going as they powered through opener ‘No Compromise’ before slowing it sown a bit with ‘Nobody’s Child’ which has some great twin guitar work from Matt and Anthony.
I can certainly see where they get the Dream Theater comparisons from as it is evident all through their music. Chris Appleton joins them onstage for ‘Heaven And Hell’ (Dio) before they end with their namesake track ‘Twisted Illusion’, a great set from a band I would like to hear more from.
The acoustic sessions although short, and squeezed between the main bands, are a chance to catch something a bit quieter and one of my faves are Steel Threads. I have seen that quite a few times and really like their mix of acoustic folk/rock. Today is the first time I have seen them as a three-piece with the addition on Tracy Beardmore on fiddle and bass. Their sound goes from wild acoustic folk akin to an acoustic Levellers.
Definitely one of the best bands of this genre I have seen in a long while and possibly the only acoustic band today that really worked for me.
On a totally different level three ballsy lasses from Bonny Scotland The Amorettes with their high energy rock and roll that packs plenty of riffs and takes no prisoners.
As Gill takes care of the vocals and rips riff after riff from her wailing Vintage guitar Hannah is more of a banshee and she hammers out the bassline, kicking out tracks like ‘Fire At Will’ and ‘Shoot From The Hip’ they have a noticeably hard edge to the music with attitude which comes across well.
Austrian rockers Garagedays are here to have fun and indeed vocalist Marco had already had a few pints of fun before he went onstage which made for a great show, still professional to a T but just looser and larger than life. Playing a hard rocking set coming from their two albums Dark and Cold and Passion of Dirt and a sound somewhere between Metallica and Megadeth.
Tonight’s finale is one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend with Blaze Bayley playing the entire Silicon Messiah album ably backed by the awesome Absolva who have been supporting and working with him for some time now.
Blaze is on great form both vocally and also as a great frontman and the amassed crowd are lapping it up, at times he is very humble as he talks about the fact that the audience are what keeps him going and why he still does this. An awesome set that sees maximum audience response and I’m sure Blaze would be proud to know that his music is still reaching the young listeners of today who sing every word back to him – new and old songs alike.
As ever with good music festivals the time flies. With hangovers cured by further beers it’s time to warm up the ears and get the brain cells rocking. We are treated to some great music from Fear Me December, Sister Rose, Chasing Dragons and Sansara before an excellent classic rock set from Black Whiskey.
All the guys have a wealth of experience to call upon and it shows in their tight set, kicking off with the hard hitting ‘Idol Rich’ with its driving rhythm and a wild guitar solo before showing the slower side with ‘Hungry For Bullets’. Most of the set coming from their album ‘Heavy Train’ including the final track ‘Save My Life’.
As Knock Out Kaine arrived on stage it was if Sunset Strip had come to Manchester via the Midlands. This is a band with LA attitude, frontman Dean every inch the rock and roller with his mirror shades and charismatic stage presence. If their album ‘Rise Of The Electric Jester’ is anything to go by they will be rampaging the stages of many a festival soon.
Last year’s Rocksector signing Tysondog are touring their latest album ‘Cry Havoc’ and inject NWOBHM into the mix today. Some reviews suggest that the new album doesn’t quite match the earlier releases but it’s not evident tonight as – live – they kick out a high powered set and really engage with the crowd.
‘Into The Void’ and ‘Cry Havoc’ fit in alongside some of their earlier material as they keep faithful to their roots. As they bring the set to an end with the fast paced ‘Taste The Hate’ the crowd usher in two encores.
As Furyon are running late Chris Appleton has chance to get on stage again, this time with the guys from Knock Out Kaine, for a more subdued acoustic set of rock covers that included ‘Free Falling’ and ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, definitely more subtle that KoK’s earlier set.
The Furyon lineup has changed considerably since I last saw them with the only two originals being Matt (vocals) and Lee (drums) but after only a few songs it was clear to see that the new lineup really rocks.
Touring their latest album Lost Salvation and also banging out some fan favourites they got the crowd rocking and finally bought the curtain down with an encore of ‘Highway To Hell’ a prefect song to end this now well-established and ever-expanding event.
Review and photos by Simon Dunkerley
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